Medium-Chain Triglycerides in Infant Formulas and their Relation to Plasma Ketone Body Concentrations

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ABSTRACT. A mild ketosis is known to prevail in the mother, fetus, and newborn infant during the 3rd trimester and in the early neonatal period. It has been shown that during an equivalent period in the rat ketone bodies are readily oxidized and serve as key substrates for lipogenesis in brain. Since medium-chain triglycerides are known to be ketogenic, preterm infants may benefit from dietary medium- chain triglycerides beyond the point of enhanced fat absorption. Our objective was to determine the ketogenic response in preterm infants (gestational age: 33 ± 0.8 wk) fed three different isocaloric formulas by measuring the concentrations of 3-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate in the plasma of these infants. At the time of entrance to the study the infants were receiving 110 kcal/kg/24 h. Study I (11 infants): the infants were fed sequentially in the order; PM 60/40 (PM), Special Care Formula (SCF), and Similac 20 (SIM). In SCF greater than 50% of the fat consists of medium-chain length fatty acids while PM and SIM contain about 25%. The concentration of 3-hydroxybutyrate in plasma was significantly higher when infants were fed SCF than PM and SIM [0.14 ± 0.03, 0.06 ± 0.01, and 0.05 ± 0.01 mM, respectively (p< 0.01)]. Study II (12 infants); the infants were fed SCF, then SIM, or the reverse. The concentration of acetoacetate in plasma was 0.05 ± 0.01 and 0.03 ± 0.01 mM when infants were fed SCF and SIM, respectively (0.1>p> 0.05). The concentrations of 3-hydroxybutyrate in plasma were similar to those measured in study I for the respective formulas. The increased plasma levels of 3-hydroxybutyrate and total ketone bodies when SCF was fed indicate that SCF promotes a mild ketosis in preterm infants similar to that reported in breast-fed term infants.

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Correspondence to Paul Y K Wu.

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